Akonnor eyes positive start …as Stars face Mali today in Turkey

Black Stars new coach, Charles Kwabla Akonnor will seek to begin his journey on a positive note when Ghana face tough opponents Mali in a preparatory game today ahead of the AFCON qualifiers which resumes in November.

Akonnor, who took over from former boss Kwesi Appiah in March, will use this encounter as an appraisal ahead of his AFCON double-header next month.

Four-time AFCON winners, Ghana last won against Mali by a slim margin during the 2017 AFCON in Gabon where the Stars picked up a 1-0 win courtesy Asamoah Gyan at the group stages and would want to continue the dominance over their West African giants today.

Ghana have met Mali 23 times in all competitions with the first on August 28, 1960 where the Stars inflicted their biggest victory – a 4-1 win over them in a friendly game amounting to 11 wins, seven draws with five ending in defeats for Ghana.

Known for his exploits with VFL Wolfsburg during his five year stint with the German side, Akonnor will approach the game with a German tactic. Considering the physique and pace of the Malians, a likely 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 approach could be deployed by the Ex-Ghanaian international.

Crystal Palace forward Jordan Ayew will lead the attack and is likely to be paired with Trabzonspor’s Caleb Ekuban up front.

The midfield is likely to see the duo of Thomas Partey and Baba Idriss with Skipper Andre Ayew and Samuel Owusu or Jeffery Schlupp operating from the right flank.

The defence will see Joseph Aidoo and Kassim Nuhu as center backs with Portugal based Gideon Mensah and Nicholas Opoku occupying the right and left full backs, respectively.

However, an attacking system could see Jordan Ayew play as a lone striker upfront with Andre Ayew and Thomas Partey playing as supporting strikers, Idriss Baba as the central midfielder and Samuel Owusu/Jerry Schllup and Bernard Mensah as wingers. The back line is likely to be maintained.

Ghana could go by any of the above approaches against Mali today and Qatar on Monday.

61-year-old coach, Mohamed Magassouba, who took over from French man Alan Giresse in 2017, saw his role made permanent in October 2019 prior to the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

Today’s clash will be his first meeting with Ghana since he assumed office as the last five meetings between the two has seen Mali picked two wins, two draws and one defeat.

Known for their physique, The Eagles could stick to a more offensive role with a 4-3-2-1 approach.

FC Porto’s Moussa Merga could lead the attack due to his pace and strength with Moussa Djenepo of Southampton FC and Adama Malouda Traoré – Al-Adalah as supporting attackers.

The midfield will have Amadou Haidara, Lassana Coulibaly and Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure in a diamond formation.

The back line will have Molla Wague as the skipper. He will be paired with Hamari Traore in the center back role with Youssouf Kone and Falaye Sacko occupying the right and left back positions.

From the strength and weaknesses of the teams, the game will be very competitive but is likely to end in a draw although player for player, the Malians appear to have the upper hand.

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